The creaking, wheezing profession that refers to itself as journalism has gone from “speak truth to power” to “please be our Sugar Daddy, Mr. Power” so effortlessly that one can’t help but admire the sheer audacity surrounding it all.
The latest evidence of commonplace compromise comes from the academia wing of the flailing industry, and it reveals an avidity to serve established money troughs so keen that it would make Upton Sinclair and any other celebrated liberal muckrakers of bygone days quake in fury.
“With local journalism in crisis, Northwestern University has assembled a team of experts in digital innovation, audience understanding and business strategy,” the college’s Medill School of Journalism proclaimed about its Local News Initiative. “The goal: reinvent the relationship between news organizations and audiences to elevate enterprises that empower citizens.”
And what is Medill’s novel and groundbreaking approach to reinventing local news organizations to “empower” citizens? Make them welfare wards of a big government that they will bravely keep a watchful eye on as part of their intrepid journalism duties. What could go wrong?
The Local News Initiative in mid-November released its 2023 “State of Local News” report. Right out of the chute, the “team of experts” behind the review celebrated tethering media outlets to Big Money.
‘Promising Business Models’
“The good news: Philanthropists committed to major funding – $500 million – to support local news,” the second paragraph of the executive summary gushes. “Public officials at the national and state levels considered programs to address digital and journalistic inequalities. And a growing number of news outlets forged promising business models.”
The first sentence attempts to normalize a widespread practice in big-box American media today that any high school freshman newspaper staffer would have instinctively rebelled against not so long ago.
As Liberty Nation has documented, brand-name US media organizations routinely accept funding from influential individuals and “philanthropic” foundations that they regularly cover as part of their “reporting” endeavors. Bill Gates and George Soros lead the way. How to make charges of profound professional ethical violations go away? Write up a “disclaimer” stating donors play no role in news production whatsoever, even as these donors are featured subjects of articles and interviews. Problem solved!
It’s a short hop from there to actively calling for direct government funding of your supposedly independent journalism ventures. Medill is striving to make it even easier.
“The headlines on the bad news [in the journalism business in 2023] resoundingly conveyed the message that urgent action is needed in many venues – from boardrooms to the halls of Congress – and by many, including civic-minded organizations and entrepreneurs,” the report bluntly stated. This is a call for the federal government to step in and aid the news industry.
Perhaps sensing the delicate nature of what it is promoting, the report emphasized less alarming measures – but are they really? – such as providing “tax credits to news organizations that hire reporters and to small businesses that advertise with local news outlets.” It also unsurprisingly expressed support for federal legislation to make Internet information giants such as Google and Facebook “more accountable for compensating news organizations for their use of journalism.”
But it is not going to stop there.
Government Stipend Journalism
“Meanwhile, many news organizations are hanging on by a thread,” the report continued. “However, these national bills often create a roadmap for state legislators to follow, says Steve Waldman, president of Rebuild Local News, a nonprofit coalition advocating policies to address the crisis in local news. That is where he anticipates most success in the near future.”
Let’s look at that roadmap.
Rebuild Local News (RLN) is willing to be more candid about its plans for aggressive government support for journalism outlets. A section on its website labeled “Solutions” openly advocates for “direct” federal grants for media companies. “Direct government grants to news organizations can be fraught – but there are ways to do it without endangering editorial independence,” RLN asserted.
Take a look at NPR today to see how that works out.
A page fleshing out the grant proposals is ridiculous to the point of satire. Under a bullet list of “advantages of grant programs,” the argument is proffered that they “can target support toward the most important topics.” This organization is saying the federal government should directly dole out taxpayer money to ostensibly neutral news organizations and set the priorities for what issues they should cover.
Wait, there’s more.
“To avoid both the appearance and reality of partisan grantmaking, governing bodies should include representation from both political parties,” RLN added.
Independent newsrooms are to be subject to congressional oversight over funding, yet this is supposed to ensure that a “free press” to preserve “democracy” does not die. But don’t worry, it’s going to be “neutral” and “nonpartisan,” we are assured, though the language of a progressive social agenda is front and center.
“As we rebuild local news, we must take care to not repeat some of the maladies of ‘the good old days,’ most especially the ways in which many local newsrooms did not cover fairly, accurately or persistently communities of color and other marginalized communities,” RLN stated. “New policies should help ensure that newsrooms better reflect diversity, equity and inclusion.”
To top things off, a “dedicated funding stream” is to be created to coerce Americans to financially support something they may not want to have anything to do with. That’s a nicer way to say “mandatory universal fee.” RLN explained:
“It is advisable to avoid a system in which news organizations must appeal to lawmakers on a regular basis for support … The best way to avoid this is having a dedicated funding source, such as a fee whose funds always go to support the journalism fund …
“Example: the BBC is funded by a fee on TV sets.”
By the way, Rebuild Local News is funded by Microsoft, leftist big-ticket “philanthropies” the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund, and the progressive media Lenfest Institute, owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Meet the New Journalism: Bought by Bill Gates, George Soros, and friends and subsidized by Big Government. But we’re your voice, in your corner, on your side. Fewer and fewer Americans are buying the transparent con with each passing day. Which is precisely why they want to give you no choice in the matter.